November 17, 2011

Peer Review, Schmeer Review*

* I Googled "schmeer" to ensure I spelled it right (using "peer" in the process), and found out someone else had come up with the same title, first. Oh, well.

As biotech investors, or simply investors in general, we must prevent ourselves from becoming lazy. It's too easy to look for boxes to check: Big pharma licensing deal(s)? Check. Peer-reviewed journal article(s)? Check. Check. Check. Check. How do we find the rare gem?

More importantly, how do we find the investment opportunity before everyone else does?

For a period of time, some time back, I found myself obsessed with trying to square the circle of Provectus and peer review. Management and the company's principal investigators jointly and separately had published a few peer-reviewed papers, including participation at ASCO. But it didn't seem enough to me. Sometimes we check the box(es) before we invest. Sometimes we check the boxes in order to invest.

Why couldn't management publish more peer-reviewed journals? Why couldn't get they get into the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet? If they did (publish more, or in illustrious venues), everything would be alright. Right?

There are trade-offs, everywhere: Risk versus reward. Time spent here versus time spent there. Resources used here versus resources used there. If the company already has checked the peer-reviewed journal article box, do they really need to check more? Who feels better about spending and incurring more time, resources and frustation (I had to remind myself of my own experience years ago as a minor co-author of a peer-reviewed paper in an academic periodical)? The company or investors (me)?

If an esteemed peer or group of peers thinks management's work is top shelf, then it must be. LOL! In the peer review process, peers don't know as much as they think they know.

I want management focused on making the FDA and big pharma happy. Peer review, schmeer review.

The peer-review process is broken. It's the only process we have, but it needs to be fixed. For now, a sampling of grumblings:
  • Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals, Richard Smith
  • Does peer review need fixing?, David Gorski
  • What is wrong with Scientific Publishing and can we put it right before it is too late?, Peter Murray-Rust
  • Why publish science in peer-reviewed journals?, Joe Pickrell
  • I Hate Your Paper, Jef Akst
  • Do we need an alternative to peer-reviewed journals?, Jonathan Gitlin
With all that said, however, we could see more published articles and/or peer-reviewed work by Provectus including but not limited to:
  • Metastatic melanoma Phase 2 trial results in a global publication;
  • Compassionate care program results;
  • Combination therapy of PV-10 and radiotherapy for metastatic melanoma;
  • Liver Phase 1 trial results in a global publication; and,
  • Psoriasis Phase 2c trial results.
I do hope these literature opportunities ultimately come to fruition.

Am I counting on them to impress either or both of the FDA and big pharma, or substantiate valuation and the end-game? No. Will I feel better? Maybe...

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